The tzitzit (“hem” or tassel) is the most significant part of the Jewish garment for men. It isn’t used just for decorative purposes, it has great significance, because its creation is based on the Law of Moses and the Covenant (refer to Numbers 15: 37-41 and Deuteronomy 22:12). The Jews attach meaning and value to almost everything, and the Hebrew alphabets have numerical values. Just as the tallit (cloak) has a numerical value, so is the tzitzit. The significance of the tzizit comes to spotlight when you consider how a Judean woman who suffered from chronic bleeding for 12 years healed.
The book of Mark states that the woman touched the “cloth” of Jesus. On the other hand, the books of Matthew and Luke state that the woman touched the “hem” of Jesus’s garment. Thus, there seems to be a disconnect between the two sets of biblical accounts. However, if you refer to what the Mosaic Law says about the tassel, you get a clue as to where exactly the woman must have touched to get healed.
Could she have healed had she touched any random part of Jesus’s cloth other than the tzitzit?
Well, the great significance of the tassel leads us to suspect that the woman must indeed have touched the tassel to heal. Jesus felt power draining from Him, yet numerous people surrounded and touched Him. And He could tell exactly where. How could He have singled out the woman among a great multitude of people touching Him?
This article attempts to answer these questions with reference to tzitzit’s significance in Mosaic Law. Let’s dig in.
The Significance of the Tzizit in Mosaic Law
The tzitzit make up all the four corners of a tallit (cloak). The latter is a garment that Jewish men of the Jesus era wore over tunic (chaluq), and covers the body from the shoulders all the way down to the ankle. The cloak protects the wearer from weather conditions. While tzitzit is pleasant to look at, that’s not its main purpose. According to the books of Numbers 15: 37-41 and Deuteronomy 22:12, the tassel serves to remind the Jews of Lord’s covenant and the commandments, especially when they encounter temptations.
The four tassels of a cloak symbolize the Mosaic Law, which total 613 – 248 approvals (“you shall”) and 365 prohibitions (“you shall not”). This is because the word tzitzit has a numerical value of 600. The tassel has eight strands and five knots, so when you add these up, you get 613. Of the eight strands, seven are white to indicate divinity, and one is blue, to indicate royalty or God’s oversight over human action. However, this practice had been left as early as the Israeli civilization in the book of Numbers 15. From then onward, all the eight strands of the tallit (“talliot”) are white. Today, however, there’s a slow return to the ancient Hebrew tradition.
But why was this tradition abandoned in the first place?
Perhaps because of practicality reasons. The blue strand was made from blue dye (techelet) obtained from the gland of a hillazon (Murex) snail. You’d require thousands of snails to gather a small amount of the dye. And harvesting the snails is a costly undertaking. A blue cloth weighing one pound (half a kilogram) would cost you thousands of dollars to make. Hence, the cloaks made from the blue dye were precious, and they could be passed on from generation to generation.
The strands of the tzizit weren’t just a reminder of the Lord’s covenant and commandments, but also reminded them of God’s oversight over their actions. In other words, God required them to depend on Him; not to live their lives by their own intelligence and understanding. God wanted Israelites to obey and trust Him, and to have faith in Him. God wanted to be close to them, and their lives connected to Him.
The tassel of a Jewish garment has great significance, because it’s rooted in the Mosaic Law, the Covenant and the commandments. The strands – one blue and seven white – on the tassel serve as a constant reminder to the Israelites of God’s oversight over their lives, obedience and connection. We can conclude the Judean woman got healed, because she must have been too aware of these facts, and that she had faith in Jesus.